When I was 17 years old, I had the opportunity to practice with a professional basketball team in France.
I was incredibly nervous but started off the practice surprisingly well. Then I started listening to the voice inside my head that told me that I couldn’t keep up this effort and I was soon going to start failing.
As my fears grew more and more, I doubted that I could keep this level of intensity so I decided to fake not feeling well. I decided I would rather quit while I was ahead than keep giving my best to find out I couldn’t sustain my efforts.
Unfortunately, this heart condition still follows me around today as I’m fighting to grow and change. Cowardice is defined as a lack of courage or firmness of purpose. Throughout this article we will identify what cowardice looks like, learn about its impact, and see how building a strong relationship with God will help us conquer it.
Cowardice is something that can be humbling to face but I think we struggle with it more than we care to admit. Jesus challenged his disciples on it:
On that day, when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go across to the other side of the lake.” So after leaving the crowd, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat, and other boats were with him. Now a great windstorm developed and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was nearly swamped. But he was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.
They woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?” So he got up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Be quiet! Calm down!” Then the wind stopped, and it was dead calm. And he said to them, “Why are you cowardly? Do you still not have faith?”
Mark 4:35-40 NET
From this scripture, we learn that there is a correlation between our lack of faith and being cowardly.
While they were facing a dangerous storm, the disciples chose fear instead of faith. They started doubting that God cared about what they were going through. Instead of discovering how to be bold in the face of frightening circumstances, they gave in to their doubt and worry.
Cowardice isn’t a personality trait, it’s a reflection of our lack of faith.
Learning to identify my cowardice
If we want to conquer cowardice, we first need to learn to call it what it is.
Cowardice sometimes hides behind other things and we don’t even notice it. So we need to look into the Bible to understand how it manifests itself.
Here are three symptoms to help us find cowardice hiding in our hearts.
We easily lose heart and give up
Also [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not to turn coward (faint, lose heart, and give up).
Luke 18:1 AMPC
Cowardice doesn’t always look like us running away from a fight or letting others walk all over us.
This passage describes ‘turning coward’ as losing heart and giving up. It takes boldness and courage to persevere. This verse also tells us something we can do to conquer cowardice: always pray.
We refuse to step up and lead
“Your Majesty,” he said, “this Philistine shouldn’t turn us into cowards. I’ll go out and fight him myself!”
1 Samuel 17:32 CEV
In this passage, which precedes the famous fight between David and Goliath, David is speaking to King Saul and telling him that the people shouldn’t turn to cowards.
Indeed, Goliath came out of his ranks day after day to defy the Israelite army and called on them to send someone to fight him. Until David came on the scene, no one was willing to step up and lead the army courageously by accepting Goliath’s challenge.
We turn into cowards when we choose not to push ourselves past our fears. Do you have the ability, talent, and heart to lead but choose not to? Do you resist taking full responsibility to grow in your leadership at home, with your friends, in your career or in helping other people find God?
People around us get more, not less fearful
The officers will then continue, “And is there a man here who is wavering in resolve and afraid? Let him go home right now so that he doesn’t infect his fellows with his timidity and cowardly spirit.”
Deuteronomy 20:8 MSG
The Bible teaches us here that just like a contagious disease, our cowardice can infect others around us.
If we tend to see others around us be fearful, it’s important that we examine ourselves and reflect on how our fears could be affecting them.
- What symptoms of cowardice do you see in your life?
- What impact does cowardice have on yourself and others around you?
- What impact could you have on others if you choose to take on your cowardice?
Conquering our cowardice
US General George S. Patton once said. “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” What I like about this quote is that it teaches us that we all can hit our limits, and once we do, we can turn cowardly.
Some of us will give in to cowardice because we are weary of relational conflict, while others will because we feel tired of experiencing failure.
Regardless of what makes us get cowardly, our limits can actually help us to see why we need to learn to develop a closer walk with God. God can give us the strength to go beyond our human limits and conquer cowardice.
Here are three ways we can conquer cowardice.
Growing in our walk with God
The council members were astonished as they witnessed the bold courage of Peter and John, especially when they discovered that they were just ordinary men who had never had religious training. Then they began to understand the effect Jesus had on them simply by spending time with him.
Acts 4:13 TPT
Many times, I have told myself that if I was more talented and had more abilities, I would be bolder. This passage describes Peter and John as “just ordinary men.” They weren’t described as smarter, more charismatic, or tougher than others. They were ordinary.
Nevertheless, those around them noticed their bold courage and took note that Jesus had an incredible impact on their lives simply because they spent time with him. Boldness isn’t something we are born with or without; it’s a spiritual quality that can be taught, developed, and nurtured the more we get to know Jesus and strive to become like him.
Don’t stop praying
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose one of you went to your friend’s house at midnight and said to him, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread. A friend of mine has come into town to visit me, but I have nothing for him to eat.’ Your friend inside the house answers, ‘Don’t bother me!
The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, if friendship is not enough to make him get up to give you the bread, your boldness will make him get up and give you whatever you need. So I tell you, ask, and God will give to you.
Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you. Yes, everyone who asks will receive. The one who searches will find. And everyone who knocks will have the door opened.
Luke 11:5-10 NCV
Boldness is defined as the willingness to take risks and act innovatively; confidence or courage. In this scripture, Jesus uses an illustration to teach us how we should fight to keep taking risks and persevere in prayer. He goes on to tell us that we get what we pray for.
If we lack boldness, we need to reflect on how we pray. Do you pray bold prayers? Do you ask God for boldness?
Ask yourself these questions to reflect on your boldness in prayer:
- Are there things you have stopped praying about because you don’t believe God will answer you?
- What specific, bold prayers can you start praying today?
Learn to deal with guilt
The wicked are edgy with guilt, ready to run off even when no one’s after them; Honest people are relaxed and confident, bold as lions.
Proverbs 28:1 MSG
In order to conquer or cowardice, we need to learn to deal with guilt. This passage makes a clear contrast between how we respond when we are guilty versus honest.
Guilt makes us edgy. It makes us run off even though no one is chasing us. On the contrary, honesty makes us bold. When we are honest, we are relaxed, confident and bold.
- What can you start doing to improve your walk with God to help you become more courageous?
- How can you decide to have bold prayers?
- What guilt do you need to be honest about with God and friends to become bold?